#319 Pride returns to Kelowna, B.C.

The last time he was Kelowna’s mayor, Walter Gray refused to sign a city proclamation for Lesbian and Gay Pride Week. Gray would not sign it unless the words “Lesbian and Gay” were removed.

That was 15 years ago, and the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal was not impressed. They told the mayor he could not pick and choose the proclamations based on his personal discomfort. He could sign all proclamations or none of them.

Gray’s response was simple: No proclamations.

When Gray ran again during the last municipal election, he was asked repeatedly what he would do if he won the mayor’s seat. All Gray would say was that he would bring it to Council if he were elected.

He did that, and last week he signed a city proclamation making Pride Week official. In the intervening years, Gray has learned, as he put it in an interview with CBC’s Chris Walker, “to stay up with the times.”

And the Okanagan Pride Committee’s Raymond Koehler has made progress with the mayor by being more conciliatory.  Both sides have agreed on the shortened name and a focus on community diversity, and both sides also acknowledge that means declaring Kelowna to be a welcoming city for the LGBQT community.

Gray has agreed to fly the rainbow flag over city hall from August 13 to 19. And he said on radio he will cut his holiday short to attend one of the events on the wrap-up weekend.

This gives me hope.

N.B. August 21st City Council announced it would fly no more special-interest flags. An anti-abortion group had just asked to fly theirs for a week. It was inevitable that tricky issues would come up, and I understand why they made the decision. What that doesn’t change is that times have changed since Mayor Gray was last in office, and they have changed for the better.

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